Intactivism News

April 2013

To more recent news


News items are copied to Circumstitions News blog (which takes comments)

- thanks to Joseph4GI


April 23, 2013

Burkina Faso recorded 5 FGM-related death cases in 2012

In 2012, Burkina Faso said 164 girls were circumcised, 19 of whom had complications related to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) including five dead, the Permanent Secretary of the Burkinabe National Council against FGM/C (SP/CNLPE) disclosed to APA.


The figures of the last Demographic Health Survey (2010) reveal that 75% of Burkinabe women aged between 15 and 19 have been circumcised.

The same survey shows that only 13.30% girls aged between 0 and 14 years are circumcised.

These figures reveal a downward trend in the practice in the “Land of Honest People” (pays des hommes integres) over the last few years.



European Jewish Press
April 22, 2013

Rabbinical Centre of Europe decries circumcision slurs on Berlin Rabbi as 'truly saddening'

by Shari Ryness

BRUSSELS/BERLIN (EJP)---The Rabbinical Centre of Europe (RCE) has issued an official statement defending a Berlin Rabbi who was criticised for inflicting “bodily harm” on his newborn son by commissioning a religious circumcision.

Responding to media attacks on Rabbi Yehuda Teichtel, a Berlin community Rabbi, the RCE insisted that the Rabbi had sought the services of an internationally renowned Mohel (religious circumcision practitioner) certified by both the Israeli health ministry and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and that the circumcision has been performed “according to proper medical manner and in accordance with the Jewish law and German laws”.

Describing the negative attention the case had attracted as “truly saddening”, the RCE further commended Teichtel’s reputation within the Berlin Jewish community, where “he is known to stand for fairness and respect and for an open, tolerant cooperation within our society”. [Yes, but did he suck a baby's penis, contrary to the law passed last year?]

“All Jewish leaders have the responsibility and obligation to stop any interference with any detail of Jewish practice,” concluded the official comment.

Berlin’s District Attorney began an investigation into Rabbi Teichtel’s son’s circumcision earlier this month, after the office of public prosecutors received several formal complaints regarding the alleged use of the controversial practice of metzitzah b’peh, used in ultra-Orthodox circles, whereby the blood is sucked orally from the circumcision wound. According to German Jewish weekly Juedische Allgemeine Wochenzeitung, one of the complainants was Christian Bahls, who heads a “working group on victims of circumcision”.

In December, the German Bundestag sought to end months of uncertainty over the continued practice of religious circumcisions by Germany’s Muslim and Jewish communities, by passing a new law ... Although the bill states circumcisions must be carried out "professionally" and "with the most effective pain relief" and in the event that parents have been forewarned of the inherent risks, it critically did not safeguard the practice of metzitzah b’peh.

Gideon Joffe, head of Berlin’s Jewish community, last weekend issued a statement defending Berlin’s “unified community” in the face of the latest negative reports and insisted that “members of every denomination should be able to live out their Judaism as they learned it from their parents and grandparents”.

The Council of the RCE held its annual meeting in Paris last Tuesday , where members signed a formal declaration agreeing that “under no circumstances may the governments of any country become involved in the mitzvah of brit milah” and that RCE leaders should lobby the topical issue with the governments of each country. [Who are these people to declare themselves above governments?]

Based in Brussels, the Rabbinical Centre of Europe serves and represent over 700 Rabbis from across Europe.

Earlier story


Jakarta Globe
April 20, 2013

Activists Demand Repeal of Regulation on Circumcision

by Yuli Krisna

Bandung. “Once a baby girl is 40 days old, she can be circumcised. That’s the tradition,” says Lusi, a mother of one.

“My mother says the child must bleed, but the midwife said there’s no bleeding involved because she’s just cleaning it up down there.”

Lusi is one of many mothers in Indonesia who subject their daughters to a procedure involving pricking and piercing the hood of the clitoris with a needle, citing an Islamic belief that it will keep the girl’s libido in check when she grows up.

Although there is no official data to gauge the extent of the practice, women’s and children’s rights activists say it is widespread, particularly in rural areas.

Ellin Rozana, the executive director of the Women’s Institute, an advocacy group, argues that a Health Ministry regulation issued in 2010 that legitimizes the practice must be repealed.

She says the government’s rationale — that the form of female circumcision performed in the country is largely symbolic and not harmful — is irrelevant, and that no form of female circumcision can be justified on religious grounds.

“Admittedly the circumcision practiced in Indonesia isn’t as bad as in some African countries, where they mutilate parts of the girl’s genitals,” she tells the Jakarta Globe.

“Here they call it pricking and cleaning, but there’s no clear reason for why it has to be done. It’s different from male circumcision, which has clear health benefits.”

Ellin says the age-old reason given, that the circumcision prevents a girl from having a high sex drive and thus from becoming sexually promiscuous, highlights the patriarchal and discriminative nature of traditional Islamic Indonesian society toward women.

“There’s this idea that if a girl is circumcised, she will grow up to be a ‘good girl’ with a low sex drive,” she says.

“But this is a question of a woman’s reproductive rights, her right to enjoy sex.”

The government initially banned all forms of female circumcision in 2006. Four years later, however, it made an about-face and issued a regulation giving health workers the discretion to perform circumcisions as they saw fit.

The government argued that the regulation was needed because the all-out ban had led to large numbers of parents getting their daughters circumcised by unqualified shamans and traditional healers, thereby putting their children at high risk of medical complications.

The Health Ministry regulation defines permissible female circumcision as “an incision of the skin covering the front of the clitoris, without cutting the clitoris.”

But a 2003 study by the Population Council found that 22 percent of 1,307 female circumcision cases in the country were excisions, meaning that part of the clitoris or labia was removed. Of the rest, 49 percent involved incisions while only 28 percent were of the “symbolic” prick-and-clean type.

Ellin argues that as minimalist as it seems, the kind of circumcision allowed by the government is still unacceptable under internationally recognized standards on women’s rights.

In December, the United Nations passed a resolution banning female genital mutilation, which extends to the circumcision practiced in Indonesia.

Procedures such as pricking, piercing, incising, scraping, cauterization or burning that are carried out for non-medical purposes are categorized by the World Health Organization as mutilation along with practices that alter or remove any part of the genitals.

Back in Bandung, Lusi has come to realize that she did not need to have her daughter circumcised.

“I found out too late that what I did was a violation of my child’s rights,” she says.

Earlier story


Circumcision does not prevent STDs - but it might reduce (harmless?) surface bacteria

ISRN Urology Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 109846, 42 pages
April, 2013

Sexually Transmitted Infections and Male Circumcision: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Robert S. Van Howe

Received 12 December 2012; Accepted 22 January 2013

The claim that circumcision reduces the risk of sexually transmitted infections has been repeated so frequently that many believe it is true. A systematic review and meta-analyses were performed on studies of genital discharge syndrome versus genital ulcerative disease, genital discharge syndrome, nonspecific urethritis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, genital ulcerative disease, chancroid, syphilis, herpes simplex virus, human papillomavirus, and contracting a sexually transmitted infection of any type. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, and human papillomavirus are not significantly impacted by circumcision. Syphilis showed mixed results with studies of prevalence suggesting intact men were at great risk and studies of incidence suggesting the opposite. Intact men appear to be of greater risk for genital ulcerative disease while at lower risk for genital discharge syndrome, nonspecific urethritis, genital warts, and the overall risk of any sexually transmitted infection. In studies of general populations, there is no clear or consistent positive impact of circumcision on the risk of individual sexually transmitted infections. Consequently, the prevention of sexually transmitted infections cannot rationally be interpreted as a benefit of circumcision, and any policy of circumcision for the general population to prevent sexually transmitted infections is not supported by the evidence in the medical literature.

mBio.4(2): .doi:10.1128/mBio.00076-13
April, 2013

Male Circumcision Significantly Reduces Prevalence and Load of Genital Anaerobic Bacteria

Cindy M. Liu, Bruce A. Hungate, Aaron A. R. Tobian, David Serwadda, Jacques Ravel, Richard Lester, Godfrey Kigozi, Maliha Aziz, Ronald M. Galiwango, Fred Nalugoda, Tania L. Contente-Cuomo, Maria J. Wawer, Paul Keim, Ronald H. Gray, Lance B. Price [Familiar names behind an endless stream of studies promoting circumcision]

Male circumcision reduces female-to-male HIV transmission. [They always have to get that in, even though this is about bacteria, not viruses.] Hypothesized mechanisms for this protective effect include decreased HIV target cell recruitment and activation due to changes in the penis microbiome. We compared the coronal sulcus microbiota of men from a group of uncircumcised controls (n=77) and from a circumcised intervention group (n=79) at enrollment and year 1 follow-up in a randomized circumcision trial in Rakai, Uganda. [This must be one of the most over-studied group of subjects ever - relatively few, all volunteers for circumcision so hardly a random population sample, recruited by snowball techniques and hence over-likely to know each other and have sexual partners in common.] We characterized microbiota using, 16S rRNA gene-based quantitative PCR (qPCR) and pyrosequencing, log response ratio (LRR), Bayesian classification, nonmetric multidimensional scaling (nMDS), and permutational multivariate analysis of variance (PerMANOVA). At baseline, men in both study arms had comparable coronal sulcus microbiota; however, by year 1, circumcision decreased the total bacterial load and reduced microbiota biodiversity. Specifically, the prevalence and absolute abundance of 12 anaerobic bacterial taxa decreased significantly in the circumcised men. While aerobic bacterial taxa also increased postcircumcision, these gains were minor. The reduction in anaerobes may partly account for the effects of circumcision on reduced HIV acquisition [or may not, even partly - pure speculation].

The bacterial changes identified in this study may play an important role in the HIV risk reduction conferred by male circumcision. Decreasing the load of specific anaerobes could reduce HIV target cell recruitment to the foreskin. [Speculation piled on speculation.] Understanding the mechanisms that underlie the benefits of male circumcision could help to identify new intervention strategies for decreasing HIV transmission, applicable to populations with high HIV prevalence where male circumcision is culturally less acceptable. [This is new and somewhat mysterious. Have they finally noticed that men aren't all keen to have (the best) part of their penises cut off?]

[This study seems intended to frighten. No prize for guessing which study got plastered all over the media!]


The Jewish Daily Forward
April 15, 2013

U. Penn Researchers: Orthodox Groups Distorted Our Report on Circumcision Rite

Authors Reject Efforts To Debunk Risk of Metzitzah B'Peh

bySeth Berkman

The authors of a research report on metzitzah b’peh say their study is being distorted by defenders of the controversial ritual circumcision practice who claim that the procedure poses no risk of neonatal herpes to infants.

In an April 9 press release headlined “Ivy League Study Casts Doubt on Claims that Jewish Tradition Leads to Herpes in Infants,” a public relations agency representing Agudath Israel of America and several other ultra-Orthodox groups sought to debunk the public health consensus on metzitzah b’peh, or MBP. The press announcement claimed that a study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania “found little evidence to support the claim that circumcision ritual is infecting infants” with herpes simplex virus.

The announcement noted that the UPenn study was submitted as evidence in an appeal filed by the ultra-Orthodox groups, who are plaintiffs in a suit opposing regulation of the practice by New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

“We have been saying for years that the evidence attacking this religious practice is highly dubious, and now we have world class doctors agreeing with us.” Rabbi Gedaliah Weinberger, chairman emeritus of the Aguda’s board of trustees, said in the press release.

But in a statement released Monday, the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Evidence-based Practice termed it “regrettable that our evidence review was manipulated for purposes other than advising physicians of important clinical risk factors for newborns.”

The unpublished report was used without our knowledge or consent and importantly, without proper context,” the center’s statement said. “Further, a subsequent press release mischaracterized our review by implying that there is no causal relationship between circumcision performed with oral suction and the transmission of neonatal herpes simplex virus (HSV) when the full report on the existing evidence concluded this link does exist.”

MBP, a procedure practiced by some ultra-Orthodox mohels, involves a mohel orally sucking away the blood from the infant’s genital area after cutting off his foreskin during the bris, or ritual circumcision. The practice can infect newborns with herpes simplex virus type 1, according to medical authorities. While not serious for adults, neonatal herpes can be fatal for infants, or cause permanent cognitive or physical damage. A study published in a journal sponsored by the federal Centers for Disease Control found that infants definitely or likely to have been exposed to MBP during circumcision faced a risk of neonatal herpes 3.4 times greater than that of newborns outside this group.


The UPenn study was submitted by the Aguda, the Central Rabbinical Congress of the United States and Canada, and the International Bris Association in their most recent court brief filed in the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals on April 8. Their suit challenges a New York City regulation requiring a mohel to obtain a signed consent form from the parents of a newborn before performing direct MBP on the infant as part of a ritual circumcision.

In an April 10 email to the Forward, Joel Betesh, the project director of the study cited by the plaintiffs, wrote, “I do not agree with the way they are portraying our report.” Betesh requested to speak with a Forward reporter the following day. But all future communication involved a UPenn press spokesperson. Betesh and Brian Leas, the lead analyst of the study, have not returned further requests for an interview.


The plaintiffs’ public relations agency, Sheinkopf Ltd — headed by the prominent Democratic Party political consultant Hank Scheinkopf — provided the Forward with a full copy of the study on request on April 9, despite the fact that it had not appeared elsewhere. But in a separate statement, first published April 12 on the website Failed Messiah, a representative from UPenn said that the study was not peer reviewed and “was an internal literature review.” The spokesperson reiterated this in an interview with the Forward April 15. “The request was internal only with no connection to any outside group,” said Susan Phillips, senior vice president for public affairs at the University of Pennsylvania Health System.


Earlier story


A lot of limp puns...

Colorado House Debate (audio)
April 4, 2013

Colorado house does not restore Medicaid circumcision funding

In the Colorado legislature, an amendment to restore Medicaid funding of circumcision was struck down on a technicality. It was moved by Rep Paul Rosenthal (D) who said "the AAP supports this amendment ... because they said that the benefits outweigh the risks...."

Rep Cheri Gerou (R) concentrated on making bad puns while asking for a No vote on the amendment.

Rep Claire Levy (D) said that the amendment is out of order because it would make substantive law via a footnote. That is how the chair ruled.

Earlier story


The Voice (Botswana)
April 12, 2013

Circumcision Horror - Who Cares?


Like many mothers Lungisani Thini decided to have her 11-year-old son circumcised because she wanted him to have a healthier future.

Now she fears he may not have much of a future at all.

The distraught mum, 47, described how the boy’s penis was sliced open during the procedure that went terribly wrong at Tutume Primary hospital. She has now threatened to sue the government P5 million for negligence.

The botched procedure occurred in December last year, but Lungisani claims the hospital neither gave her an apology nor reacted urgently to repair the damage.

“I know mistakes do occur, but the way the hospital is handling my son’s case makes me feel they don’t care.

All I need now is compensation so that I can find medication and doctors to correct the blunder before it’s too late,” she said.

The mother of six revealed that the problem became evident shortly after the procedure when the boy experienced pain and difficulty when trying to urinate.

Although he was then referred to Nyangabgwe hospital, it soon became apparent that measures taken to repair the damage had been unsuccessful.

“When after a week they removed the pipe they had inserted in his penis they assured us that all would be well.

But before long the boy started complaining again.”

Lungisani went on to say that after returning to Nyangabgwe doctors said there was nothing they could do as her son urgently needed to see a specialist.

She told how he was then transferred to Maun, but claims all they are doing there is draining the urine twice every month from the pipe in his penis.

“As I speak, the boy’s education is being seriously affected because of the repeated journeys to hospital,” she added.

What upsets her most is the fact that apart from providing transport to Maun, the hospital does not assist the family financially for the numerous trips.

She also complained that the hospital has never counselled either her or her son.

“As a single mum it is very difficult for me to cope and since the people who are responsible don’t seem to care, I have decided to take legal action. Although I am poor, I will fight until I get justice,” Lungisani promised.

Taking up the case area councillor Moseki Mathodi said that he tried to follow up the matter, but was told it was none of his business.

“I went to the clinic where the operation was carried out, but the nurse in charge refused to talk to me regarding the case claiming confidentiality.

They even failed to liaise with the school regarding the boy’s problem until I personally went to alert the headmaster,” he said.

Tutume District Health Management Team (DHMT) Coordinator Dr Ntumba Kamayi, although acknowledging there was a problem, dismissed allegations that the hospital was not treating the matter with urgency.

“What happened is very sad, but mistakes do happen,” he said. [Medical mistakes are not supposed to happen; accidents should be dealt with.]

Kamayi went on to assure the public that such cases were rare, saying that at least 40 people a day were being circumcised at the Thini clinic. [Yes, and how many are botched?]

“Why the boy’s case went wrong is still a shock to me,” the doctor said.


Jewish Light
April 12, 2013

Circumcision ritual under investigation in Berlin


BERLIN (JTA) -- Berlin's District Attorney is investigating complaints about a circumcision that took place last month in the German capital.

A spokesperson for the office of the public prosecutors, Martin Steltner, told JTA that several complaints were formally lodged in the past two weeks regarding the March 3 circumcision of the infant son of Berlin Chabad Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal and his wife, Leah Teichtal. The department is looking into the charges and had not yet launched a formal investigation.

News of the investigation comes months after Germany's parliament passed a law protecting the rights of Jews and Muslims to religious circumcision.

The Teichtal circumcision involved mezizah b'peh, an tradition common only in limited Orthodox circles in which blood is sucked orally from the circumcision wound. The practice has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years due to the risk of transmission of viruses to the infant. Prosecutors have not said if Teichtal's son was harmed by the procedure.

Germany's main Jewish newspaper, the weekly Juedische Allgemeine Wochenzeitung, reported that one of the complainants was Christian Bahls, a mathematician from the city of Rostock who heads the Mogis association for victims of sexual abuse and which has a "working group on victims of circumcision."

In an online statement, Bahls said he decided to sue after seeing a video of the circumcision. He said that the new German law did not legalize the practice of mezizah b'peh, but rather required that all circumcisions be performed according to modern medical standards.

Rabbi Teichtal was in Israel and could not be reached before the Sabbath, but the Chabad office in Berlin confirmed that the formal complaints mentioned Teichtal as well as Menachem Fleischman, a well-known mohel in Israel, and the child's maternal grandfather, Rabbi Yochanan Gurary of Holon, Israel.

Some Orthodox communities have adopted the medically recommended use of a glass pipette for the procedure, but this protective measure allegedly was not employed in the recent ceremony.

The case arises against the background of public disapproval of the circumcision rite in Germany. In December, the Bundestag passed a new circumcision law after months of heated debate over efforts to ban the practice.

Gideon Joffe, head of Berlin's Jewish community, issued a statement Friday defending the right to practice traditions handed down over generations. [One can think of many evil traditions handed down over generations until they were stopped. This is the fallacy of Appeal to Antiquity.]

"We were hoping that the new circumcision law would finally restore legal security and that the recent debates, which were very stressful to the Jewish community, were finally over," Joffe said. "The Jewish Community of Berlin is a unified community and members of every denomination should be able to live out their Judaism as they learned it from their parents and grandparents."

Earlier German law story
Earlier NY metztizah story


April 10, 2013

Mother spared jail for girl's circumcision

BARCELONA, Spain, April 10 (UPI) -- A Senegalese woman whose young daughter was circumcised before her arrival in Spain has been given a two-year suspended sentence.

The court ordered the woman to pay her daughter 10,000 euros ($13,000) in compensation for the operation, which is also called female genital mutilation, thinkSpain reported Tuesday.

The sentence was reduced from the seven years sought by the prosecution because the woman did not realize female circumcision is illegal in Spain. The 40-year-old woman will not have to serve any time if she is not convicted of anything else.

The woman immigrated to Barcelona with her children in 2010 after her husband, who had been working in Spain for more than a decade, got a family visa. The circumcision was discovered during a routine medical checkup.

The woman told authorities the circumcision took place while her daughter was staying with her grandmother, and she did not find out about it until it had been completed.

In the only other case involving female circumcision, a Gambian immigrant was sentenced to six years in prison for arranging the surgery in Spain.


Another Malala Yousafzai

VOA News
April 10, 2013

Some Kenyan Families Caught in Middle of FGM Debate

by Mohammed Yusuf

KEHANCHA — The Kuria tribe of Kenya is one of dozens still practicing female genital mutilation. But now they are facing a cultural crisis, as those girls who are circumcised are dropping out of school to marry, while those who want to continue their education have to fight against tradition.

In a remote rural district in the southwest of Kenya, students as young as four study in windowless classrooms made of iron sheeting.

In this school most of the teenagers are boys. Very few girls can be seen. The Kuria community is struggling to keep girls in school, and some blame the practice of female genital mutilation, which signals their transition into adulthood.

Fourteen-year-old Faith Gati is fighting against centuries of practice. Gati skipped a circumcision ceremony last December and moved from one village to another to avoid the cut.

“My father said I should be circumcised," she said. "When the time came to be circumcised mum took me to my uncle’s place. My father would beat my mother. My uncle took to me to Taarime in Tanzania. The ritual started again and my father came looking for me.”

The Kuria community does a circumcision ceremony once every two years.

Gati’s younger sister, who is 11, has undergone the cut.

But Faith Gati has refused. She says circumcision has prevented girls from achieving their goals, since the culture now treats them like adults, when in a real sense they are still minors.

“I don’t want to undergo circumcision; it spoils many girls,” she said. “I saw my uncle’s wife in Dar es Salaam, she is well educated and she is employed by a big company I envied her and I want to be like her.”

Gati’s mother, Cicilia Suguta, who is still nursing serious injuries in her arms and back from her husband’s beatings, notes the only way her daughter can achieve her dreams is to be uncircumcised, despite challenges from her husband and the community.

“Our girls who are circumcised they think they are grown ups and don’t want to listen to anyone,” she said. “Even if you talk to them about education they don’t want to know and even understand what you are talking about. They say even if I don’t get education I will be married.”

Mnanga Musira is one of the elders involved in the anti-FGM campaign funded by the United Nations Population Fund. He says girls should be given the chance to decide if they want to undergo the cut or not.

“As an elder I would go direct to my chief and report anyone who is circumcising young girls," he said. "I don’t want someone to bring shame to my area forcefully circumcising young girls. I ask as young as she is what has she done to deserve that pain?”

In the Kuria community the ceremony will be held again in December 2014. Gati says she will still run away when the time comes and her mother will stand with her daughter even if it means being chased and beaten by her husband again.


Ottawa Citizen
April 9, 2013

Foreskin Crusaders to protest against Oprah event

[The term "crusader" is as unfortunate as it was in the second Gulf War. Most infant circumcision in Canada is not religious.]

by Zev Singer

OTTAWA — While an expected 14,000 people stream into Scotiabank Place on Wednesday night to hear Oprah Winfrey speak, they will be greeted by a group of protesting foreskin activists looking to take the media mogul to task.

This will take a bit of explaining.

The group, the Canadian Foreskin Awareness Project, or CAN-FAP, opposes the circumcision of baby boys. Oprah has become their target because, they say, she has endorsed an anti-aging skin product that was developed using skin cells harvested from a baby’s foreskin.

The product, made by SkinMedica, sells for around $250 per ounce.

The company could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but has previously explained that it does not use foreskins in the production of the cream, and has not since the original one was used to develop the line of cells nearly two decades ago. (There was actually nothing special about the foreskin — any baby skin would have worked, but foreskins were the available source).

[That is disingenous. There were issues of informed consent (and from the foreskin's owner, not just his parents) and medical ethics in the sale and re-use of human tissue even then. A man is walking round somewhere unaware that the cellular descendents of his foreskin are now adorning Oprah's face. There have been other notorious cases of the non-consented use of human tissue where availability was precisely what made its use so despicable. ]

However, CAN-FAP founder Glen Callender, a Vancouver resident who also staged a protest outside the Oprah event there in January, said Tuesday that in his eyes non-consensual male circumcision is a human rights violation that he equates with female genital mutilation.

“If you were to do that to me right now, today, as an adult, it would be aggravated sexual assault. You’d go to prison for 14 or 15 years,” Callender said. “I can’t see how that would be any different if you did that to me as a defenceless baby.”

Callender, a 39-year-old freelance writer and editor, said his main issue is the sexual pleasure that’s being taken away from men.

Oprah has had no comment.

Earlier story


Religious FGC recorded in 16th Century

March 31, 2013

Margin Notes Shed New Light on Renaissance Anatomy Masterpiece

by Megan Gannon, News Editor

When the Renaissance physician and expert dissector Andreas Vesalius first published "De humani corporis fabrica" in 1543, he provided the most detailed look inside the human body of his time.

A previously unknown copy of the impressive anatomy textbook resurfaced a few years ago, and it apparently contains more than a thousand hand-written notes and corrections by the author himself. The annotations reveal that Vesalius was meticulously planning a third edition of the book that never made it to print, researchers say.

... Vesalius also intended to add new information to the text as he learned more about the human body, including what may be one of the oldest references to the practice of female genital mutilation.

In his discussion of circumcision, Vesalius scrawled at the bottom of the page that Ethiopians "cut off the fleshy processes from new born girls in accordance with their religion in the same way as they remove the foreskins of boys, 'although in their religious ceremonies they are otherwise generally similar to those of us Christians,'" Nutton writes. "This is arguably the first reference in a medical text to female genital mutilation for non-medical purposes."


The book will be featured as part of an exhibition next year in Toronto to mark the 500th anniversary of Vesalius's birth.


Politics Web
Marvh 13, 2013

KwZulu Natal government has spent R48.5M [$US5.3M] on risky clamps




Mrs C Dudley (ACDP) to ask the Minister of Health:

(1) Why is the Tara Klamp still being used at hospitals despite reports that a clinical trial has shown it to be unsafe;

(2) what (a) is the Government paying per Tara Klamp and (b) amount has the Government spent on Tara Klamps to date;

(3) has the Tara Klamp been put out to tender?



(1) ... The World Health Organisation (WHO)'s Department of Reproductive Health & Research (RHR) hosted a consultation ... The group concluded that while rates of adverse events and device related incidents were of primary focus "it was agreed that they did not necessarily exclude the Tara Klamp device from further assessment in an adult African population, nor imply that similarly high complication rates would be see in younger men or adolescents".

(2) (a) The cost per unit item for the TK is R222.30 [$US 24.81] VAT inclusive depending on the rand/dollar exchange rate.

(b) -->The KwaZulu/Natal Department of Health has spent R48,544,916.75 [$US 5,368,736.66] from April 2010 to date on the purchase of the TK device.

(3) ... The Department procured the device from the sole distributor for Africa,...

Issued by Parliament, April 8 2013


April 8, 2013

Brain Learns to Manage Stress Early in Life

by Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on April 8, 2013

Provocative new animal research suggests that the ability to manage stress is not genetically hardwired into our brain. Rather the brain learns from early experiences and develops pathways that prepare the brain for future challenges.

Using a number of cutting-edge approaches, including optogenetics, researchers at Canada’s University of Calgary discovered that stress circuits in the brain undergo profound learning early in life.

Stress circuits consist of the interaction between the nervous system and stress hormones—specifically, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.

In the study, Jaideep Bains, Ph.D., and colleagues learned that stress circuits are capable of self-tuning following a single stress.

These findings demonstrate that the brain uses stress experience during early life to prepare and optimize for subsequent challenges.

The team was able to show the existence of unique time windows following brief stress challenges during which learning is either increased or decreased. By manipulating specific cellular pathways, they uncovered the key players responsible for learning in stress circuits in an animal model.

The findings are discussed in two studies published online in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

“These new findings demonstrate that systems thought to be ‘hard-wired’ in the brain, are in fact flexible, particularly early in life,” says Bains.

“Using this information, researchers can now ask questions about the precise cellular and molecular links between early life stress and stress vulnerability or resilience later in life.”

Stress vulnerability, or increased sensitivity to stress, has been implicated in numerous health conditions including cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and depression.

Although these studies used animal models, similar mechanisms mediate disease progression in humans.

“Our observations provide an important foundation for designing more effective preventative and therapeutic strategies that mitigate the effects of stress and meet society’s health challenges,” he says.

[This is in accordance with Taddio et al.'s finding that circumcised babies react differently to the stress of vaccination, months later.]


Medical Daily
April 6, 2013

Two Infants Contract Herpes Following Circumcision, With One Testing Positive For HIV

by Matthew Mientka

Two infant boys contracted herpes with one testing positive for HIV-1 following ritual circumcisions, the New York City Department of Health said yesterday. [The herpes virus is HSV-1 and HIV is not usually numbered, so this may be a misprint. UPDATE: It was.]

Denizens of the city's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, the boys were not identified. Both were circumcised in the Jewish ritual known as metzitzah b'peh, whereby the practitioner, or mohel, places his mouth around the baby's penis to suck the blood to "cleanse" the wound.

One of the two developed a fever and lesion on his scrotum a week after the ceremony, the health department said.

Although the city now requires parents to sign a written consent form acknowledging the health risks of the practice, none of the parents of the two boys signed the form, said Jay Varma, deputy commissioner for disease control at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

He said it was "too early to tell" if the babies would suffer long-term health consequences from the infection. [If one has HIV how can he not suffer long-term health consequences?]

The city last year began requiring parents to sign the consent form to perform the ritual, following a string of health incidents since 2000 that included 13 cases of herpes with two resulting in brain damage and two others in death. Neonatal herpes can cause death or serious disability among infants.

Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University, told media there is no safe way to practice the ritual. "These terrible infections are completely preventable," he said. "They should not occur in the 21st century with our scientific knowledge."


Earlier story


The Dispatch(Maryland Coast)
April 5, 2013

Roadside Protest Creates A Stir In Downtown OC

by News Editor, Shawn J. Soper

OCEAN CITY -- An otherwise quiet and peaceful post-holiday afternoon was marked by a rather unusual protest even for Ocean City standards when representatives of the “Bloodstained Men” activist group set up shop at the foot of the Route 50 bridge to get their message out.

Passersby on Route 50 at N. Division Street on Tuesday afternoon witnessed three men and one woman wearing white coveralls with a red paint splotch on the crotch symbolizing generations of male children circumcised at birth and called for the abolition of the centuries-old practice. The small group in Ocean City on Tuesday was an extension of a much larger event in Washington D.C. last week marking the 20th anniversary of Genital Integrity Awareness Week. The Ocean City protest on Tuesday also coincided with the 16th anniversary of a ban on female circumcision passed in the U.S. in 1997.

“We’re protesting to end forced genital cutting of male children here in the U.S. and worldwide and bring them into equality with female children,” said Delmarva Area Intactivist Group spokesperson Shelly Wright. “We’re trying to get the word out about circumcision because it shouldn’t be forced on male children. They should have the right to decide that when they are adults and can make decisions on their own.”

Wright was one of four protestors to set up shop at the busy intersection in Ocean City on Tuesday and was joined by three other activists from New Zealand, Texas and Sacramento, Calif., ironically just about under the mileage sign for his own hometown over 3,000 miles away at the western end of Route 50. Wright said the mock blood-stained coveralls were an attempt to force people to face the fact that infant circumcision inflicts permanent physical, psychological and sexual damage on male infants [tant]amount to mutilation.

The protestors held up signs with varied messages including “say no to penis cutting,” and “occupy foreskin,” for example. Wright’s own sign read “For Sale: $431, Infant Foreskin Sold by Hospitals.” She said it is a common practice for hospitals to sell the foreskin removed from circumcised infants, which, she said, is a major ingredient in many high-end anti-aging creams.

Generally, the protestors were met with some cheers, some jeers and more than a few honking horns. The Ocean City Police Department was hanging around close to the scene, but only interceded when one of the protestors briefly stood in the middle of N. Division Street facing oncoming traffic from the bridge.


April 3, 2013

The AAP gets letters

The American Academy of Pediatrics' journal, Pediatrics, has published three eletters opposing its Circumcision Task Force's reply to the 38 senior European critics of its 2012 policy statement. But it has published them in two different places.

This one is at "published letters"

Smoke and Mirrors

Christopher L. Guest, Co-Founder
Children's Health and Human Rights Partnership

In response to concerns raised by Frisch et al, the task force seems reluctant to concede any meaningful sensory function to the human prepuce whatsoever. It is astonishing that members of the task force are able to appreciate that the prepuce is richly innervated and contains Meissner's corpuscles, but they are "unable to speculate about the effect that circumcision might have on sexual function or pleasure." Surely the task force recognizes the obstinate relationship that exists between structure and function. Structure predicts function. Function is constrained by structure.

Histologic studies indicate that the prepuce is richly innervated and contains specialized corpuscular neuroreceptors. During erection, the prepuce retracts and everts to expose the erogenous internal mucosa to external stimulation. Does this not seem like a structure whose function is, at least in some way, related to sexual pleasure? Is it reasonable to speculate that the prepuce is more likely related to sexual pleasure than say, the Achilles tendon?

If members of the task force are unwilling to consider the effect that circumcision might have on sexual pleasure, parents should ask themselves the following question: "Do I think removing richly innervated tissue from my child's genitals is more likely to INCREASE sexual pleasure or do I think removing richly innervated tissue from my child's genitals is more likely to DECREASE sexual pleasure?" It seems rather disingenuous for members of the task force not to speculate about the sensory function of the prepuce but at the same time sanction its amputation. The response to concerns raised by Frisch et al is deliberately evasive - smoke and mirrors!

Conflict of Interest:
None declared

This is published at "early"

A goldfish knows nothing about water

Hugh P. Young, Independent researcher

A goldfish knows nothing about water. The American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Circumcision is unaware of the peculiar circumcising culture in which it is immersed. For example, characters in American TV sitcoms may exhibit a casual vindictiveness toward the foreskin, or the man with one, that would cause widespread outrage if it involved race.1 American medical texts portray "normal" penises as circumcised, and may define the foreskin as "the part removed by circumcision".2

This unawareness permeates the Task Force's 2012 circumcision policy.3 Dr Frisch and 37 eminent European pediatricians, speaking for 22 pediatric associations, and for 17 countries from Iceland to Lithuania, have accurately pointed it out. The Task Force's reply amounts to "Tu quoque" ("You're another").

Those countries have "a clear bias against circumcision" the same way they have "a clear bias against parentally-elective infant toe amputation". They have no Task Forces on Leaving Boys' Genitals Alone.

The reply, like the policy itself, discounts the only study that actually attempted to measure the sensitivity of the foreskin itself, by ignoring its main, uncontested, finding: "male circumcision ablates the most sensitive part of the penis."4

The Task Force admits the role of the innervation of the foreskin in experiencing pain, but not pleasure. Frisch et al. do not need to "speculate" about it: they almost certainly have foreskins, or partners who have them. Human lips also "have nerve fibers". Whose first thought about those would be how to minimise the pain of lip-removal? Who needs proof that the nerves of the lips are intimately involved in the pleasure of kissing? To deny that a richly innervated structure, near the head of the penis, with a unique rolling action, is involved in sexual pleasure, is perverse. Impairing that pleasure was one of the purposes of circumcision, explicit for 1900 years until "medical" circumcision became customary and a generation had grown up that had never experienced sex unimpaired5

The Task Force now admits that the basic right to physical integrity is an important one, but it ignored that important basic right in its 2012 policy.

It contrasts the harm of being circumcised (without any measure of the worst of that harm, such as major complications and death) with a new, undocumented and unmeasured "harm of not being circumcised", but such harm could equally apply to failure to amputate any other less-than-vital body parts, such as the earlobes.

The Task Force offers no rebuttal to Frisch et al.'s substantive case, based on the AAP's own policy, that the diseases circumcision reduces (if the studies the Task Force cites are to be relied on) are so rare, or of such late onset, or so readily prevented or treated, that circumcising infants to prevent them is a bad option compared to letting the child grow up to decide the fate of his own genitals.

Its original claim that "the benefits outweigh the risks" was made with no actual weighing. It is now nowhere to be seen, and goes undefended.


1. Young, H. "That Thing": portrayal of the foreskin and circumcision in popular media, in "Human Rights Under Assault: The Atrocity of Circumcision" (Springer 2008), and online at the Intactivism Pages

2. Roberts, A. The Complete Human Body, DK Publishing (2010): Guyton, AC, Hall, JE. Textbook of Medical Physiology Saunders (2000): McCracken, TO ed. New Atlas of Human Anatomy MetroBooks (2001)

3. American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Circumcision. Male circumcision. Pediatrics. 2012;130(3).

4. Sorrells ML, Snyder JL, Reiss MD, et al. Fine-touch pressure thresholds in the adult penis. BJU Int. 2007;99(4):864-869

5. Philo of Alexandria, Of the special laws, Book I (ii), in Works of Philo, trans. F. H. Colson, Loeb Classical Library, 1937, Vol. VII, p. 105

Conflict of Interest:
I edit the Intactivism Pages ("Circumstitions")

[A video version of this letter is on YouTube.]

This letter is published at both of the above sites:

Function follows form

Dennis C. Harrison, Independent researcher

The response of the AAP Task Force on Circumcision to the commentary by Frisch et al is marred by a lack of attention to detail and a disregard for elementary principles of biology. The Task Force asserts that "all of the commentary authors hail from Europe," when the affiliation of one of the authors, Noni MacDonald, MD, is listed as "Department of Pediatrics, IWK Health Centre, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada." A bit later the Task Force refers to the stance of "The Canadian Medical Society," a non-existent organization.

The authors dismiss four histological studies of the prepuce on the grounds that these studies "were not designed to correlate anatomic findings with physiologic or functional roles." It is true that the function of the prepuce has not been fully elucidated, but the link between form and function is an axiom of biology. It is reasonable to suppose that specialized sensory tissue at the business end of the penis serves a specific reproductive function. In the words of Sir James Spence, "nature is a possessive mistress, and whatever mistakes she makes about the structure of the less essential organs such as the brain and stomach, in which she is not much interested, you can be sure that she knows best about the genital organs..."[1]

1. Spence On Circumcision. Pediatrics 1965;35(2):220.

Conflict of Interest:
None declared


April 3, 2013

Foreskin Man Tangles with Islamic Circumcision

SAN DIEGO, California – Today marks the release of the fourth issue of Foreskin Man, the controversial comic book series from MGMbill.org that follows the adventures of an intactivist superhero. In this chapter, Miles Hastwick ventures to Turkey to acquire an ancient artifact for the Museum of Genital Integrity.

When a fateful encounter with a shopkeeper’s estranged son-in-law turns violent, Foreskin Man swiftly becomes entangled in a bloody sultanic ritual. Caught in the middle is Murat Aydin, a young schoolboy who is only just beginning to understand the danger he faces on the road to manhood.

The twisted comic book tale is the newest creation from Matthew Hess, who commissioned three different artists to bring his story to life. Hess is president of MGMbill.org, a San Diego based group working to enact legislation that would protect boys in the USA from being forcefully circumcised.

“The brutal tradition of sünnet is deeply ingrained in Muslim culture, much the same way that infant circumcision in still prevalent in many parts of America,” said Hess. “But that doesn’t mean it can’t be replaced with a peaceful alternative. Rites of passage do not have to be cruel, and I hope Foreskin Man #4 will encourage child advocates in Turkey and other Muslim countries to begin questioning the legitimacy of male circumcision.”

Although lawmakers in a handful of western nations (Germany, Denmark, Finland) are pushing to ban male circumcision within their own borders, the painful ritual is still considered to be routine in the Islamic world. Nearly the entire Middle East, Northern Africa, and most of Indonesia subject their boys to genital cutting.

Hess believes that, in time, male circumcision can be phased out in all of those regions.

“Many people once believed that female circumcision could never be eliminated, but steady advances are being made to root out that harmful tradition,” said Hess. “If the momentum continues, one day female genital cutting may become virtually extinct. There is no reason why male circumcision cannot follow that same path.”

Foreskin Man #4 is available to read and download free at www.foreskinman.com. Printed copies are also available online, or through local comic-bookstores.


The Jewish Press
April 3, 2013

Mother Blames Mohel for Baby's Herpes after Circumcision

by Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

The question of the safety of the controversial ritual of sucking the baby’s blood after the foreskin is cut in a circumcision has again been raised following another case of Herpes.

This year’s second case of herpes resulting from the “metzitzah b’peh” custom immediately after circumcision was reported in New York, and the mother of the baby has blamed the mohel for performing to rite without her consent.

The baby survived after contacting the disease following the ritual of the mohel sucking a bit of blood after the circumcision, a custom that is practiced mainly by the Haredi orthodox community in the United States but which is common throughout Israel.

Controversy over the procedure and numerous reports of Herpes prompted the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to require parents to sign a consent form before the procedure can be performed.

The mother of the baby said she the mohel did not ask her for permission.

Earlier story


Secular Medical Forum
April 2, 2013

Secular doctors fear that new GMC guidance conflicts with the equality act.

Secular doctors say new GMC guidance on personal belief and medical practice[i] effective from April 22nd will expose some children to serious harm. Referring to ritual male circumcision, doctors are now instructed that they ‘must include parents’ religious beliefs’[ii] when assessing the child’s best interests. Secular doctors are dismayed that the guidance will support doctors who defer to parents’ insistence that it is in a healthy child’s best interests to undergo forced genital cutting for no medical reason.

Dr Lempert, a GP and chair of the Secular Medical Forum, said: ‘This new guidance conflicts with international medical consensus. Senior representatives of European paediatric associations, including the British Association of Paediatric Surgeons, recently stated[iii] that circumcision "constitutes a violation of the UN convention on the rights of the child’ and can have ‘serious long-term consequences".’

‘The GMC is failing to protect children by not distinguishing between reasonable decisions necessarily made by parents on behalf of children in need of medical care, and parental requests to surgically impose their own religious beliefs on the healthy body of a child unable to give consent.’

‘The guidelines support doctors who collude with parents seeking circumcision for non-medical reasons. Proper child safeguarding procedures should be followed when a parent seeks forced cutting of their child’s genitals. That parents have voluntarily chosen to follow a religion for which circumcision is an obligation is not a sufficient reason to permit the child to be harmed in this way and should form no part of GMC guidance to doctors.’

‘The SMF considers this GMC exception to child safeguarding only for male children subject to forced genital cutting to be of serious concern. According to legal advice received by the SMF, the new guidance incites doctors to breach the 2010 Equality Act.


‘The SMF calls on the GMC to instruct doctors that the interests and safety of a child must not be overridden by the religious or cultural beliefs of parents. Doctors should be advised that they must not cut into the normal genitalia of a child under any circumstances.’

[i] http://www.gmc-uk.org/Personal_beliefs_and_medical_practice.pdf_51462245.pdf

[ii] http://www.gmc-uk.org/Personal_beliefs_and_medical_practice.pdf_51462245.pdf Paragraph 20

[iii] Pediatrics Vol 131 (4) April 2013


The Daily Forward
April 1, 2013

Are New York Hospitals Hiding Herpes From Metzitzah B'Peh Circumcision Rite?

Refuse To Respond to Claims Made by Yeshiva U. Rabbi

bySeth Berkman

Are some New York City hospitals and the city’s Department of Health suppressing disclosure of cases in which a dangerous herpes virus is being transmitted by mohels to newborns?

Representatives from New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center refused to respond to this allegation — made specifically about their own hospital — by a senior rabbinic authority at Yeshiva University recently. The city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene also declined to respond to the charge despite multiple requests.

As his source for the allegation, Rabbi Hershel Schachter, the influential YU rabbinical leader who made the charge publicly, cited his own daughter who, he said, works as a nurse at New York Presbyterian.

In a public lecture last February in London, Schachter, who is a rosh yeshiva, or senior chief rabbinic authority, at Y.U.’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, claimed that his daughter’s hospital treated three cases per year of Hasidic babies infected with herpes. The infections were “obviously because of metzitzah b’peh,” Schachter told his audience. The remarks were first posted March 14 on the website Failed Messiah.

The Hebrew term metzitzah b’peh, often shortened to MBP, refers to a procedure practiced by some ultra-Orthodox mohels as part of a male infant’s circumcision rite in which the mohel orally sucks the blood away from the infant’s genital area after cutting away his foreskin. The practice can infect newborns with Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1, according to medical authorities, a virus that, while not serious for adults, can be fatal for infants, or cause permanent cognitive or physical harm.

Since 2004, the New York City Department Of Health And Mental Hygiene has reported 12 cases, with two deaths. Schachter cited his daughter as claiming that there are, in fact, about 15 such cases per year in the city, including the three cases or so she claimed per year at her own hospital.

Schachter said his daughter explained that the hospitals do not report these cases because Hasidic clients would not return if they were made public.

Mohels from outside the ultra-Orthodox community use a sterile pipette for this purpose. But many ultra-Orthodox mohels consider direct suction of the genital area by mouth to be mandated by the Talmud as part of the religious rite.

In contrast to New York Presbyterian and the New York City Department of Health, Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn, which has perhaps the largest clientele of Orthodox patients in the city, strongly denied Schachter’s allegation.

Eileen Tynion, assistant vice president, public relations for Maimonides, wrote in an email that, “Like all hospitals, Maimonides is required to report cases of infant herpes to the DOH, and we remain in compliance at all times with that requirement.” In September 2011, a two-week old boy died at Maimonides after contracting herpes following MBP, according to the city medical examiner.

Efforts to reach Schachter and his daughter were unsuccessful.

The ultra-Orthodox umbrella group Agudath Israel of America, which has filed a lawsuit against the city’s effort to regulate MBP, also declined to comment on Schachter’s allegations.

Schachter’s remarks on the issue were part of a broader talk he gave to an audience of British rabbis that has sparked intense controversy. During the lecture, Schachter also said that allegations of child sexual abuse within the Orthodox community should not be directly reported to law enforcement authorities; instead, he said, they should first be brought before a special panel of Torah scholars who are also psychologists to determine their validity. He voiced caution about sending cases to law authorities because such action could result in a Jew being sent to a state prison, where he could be locked up “with a shvartze, in a cell with a Muslim, a black Muslim who wants to kill all the Jews."

[So he can hardly be accused of being motivated by antisemitism. How similar are his and the Roman Catholic Church's approches to child abuse by their members!]

Earlier story

To earlier news (headlines)

Back to the Intactivism index page.